A flowering Tibetan shrub, used in Chinese folk medicine from time immemorial, tells body cells that they are starving. This effect can become a weapon against multiple sclerosis and even aging.
The roots of the ever-green blue hydrangea (Dichroa febrifuga) are part of the so-called Fifty Essential Herbs of Chinese traditional herbal medicine and have been used in China for centuries to treat malaria. Tracy Keller and her colleagues at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine in Boston have discovered the substance halofuginone - (in fact febrifugine, the active ingredient in the roots, but with an additional chlorine and a bromine atom) suppresses immune responses that cause immune diseases. The Latin species name, “febrifuga”, ie, an antidepressant, says it all.
Artificial amino acid deficiency
Body cells stop producing non-essential proteins when there is a shortage of amino acids. Halofuginone "simulates" such a deficiency by blocking an enzyme, T-prolyl, that transports the amino acid proline into the protein assembly, Keller's team found. The artificial amino acid deficiency triggers a chemical chain reaction, AAR (amino acid response pathway), which is a response to amino acid scarcity. AAR stunts the growth of malaria parasites and prevents the formation of a certain type of white blood cell, TH17, which is responsible for many autoimmune diseases. That in turn inhibits diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatism, psoriasis and chronic inflammation of the intestines. In short: an ideal medicine for these diseases.
Against aging and warning
There is a second possible use. Animal studies show that animals that are barely fed enough live longer because diseases that cause inflammation are prevented. Keller therefore thinks halofuginone can act as an anti-aging drug.
Incidentally, be careful about using this herb on your own. Herbs, especially herbs with a powerful medicinal effect, are by definition not harmless. For example, this plant is poisonous. Inflammation is part of our body's defense system. By using this herb you weaken these defenses. In the case of TH17 cells: you protect against bacteria such as staphylococci and the Candida fungus. It is also a chemical derivative of febrifugine and not febrifugine itself. Halofuginone is now used in veterinary medicine and is an authorized “orphan drug”. Only use this and other medicines after consultation with your treating doctor, where you can provide a reference to the scientific publication. This can weigh up whether the reduced immune system outweighs the relief of complaints.
Tracy L Keller, Davide Zocco, Mark S Sundrud, Margaret Hendrick, Maja Edenius, Jinah Yum, Yeon-Jin Kim, Hak-Kyo Lee, Joseph F Cortese, Dyann F Wirth, John David Dignam, Anjana Rao, Chang-Yeol Yeo, Ralph Mazitschek, Malcolm Whitman. Halofuginone and other febrifugine derivatives inhibit prolyl-tRNA synthetase. Nature Chemical Biology, 2012